Monday, August 01, 2005

The Dipshit Theory

The Dipshit Effect is well-known to gamers. It's the sudden idiocy of players on a massively on-line game, as immortalized by Penny Arcade. Due to their fantastically unhelpful keywords, I can't find the exact comic, but you should be familiar with it already.

There are a lot of theories as to why it happens, most of them dealing with the side effects of anonymity. But the Dipshit Effect of on-line gaming is really just a subset of the whole Dipshit Effect. People from all walks of life suffer from DE, and it seems to be most common in teenagers.

Perhaps you have met some Dipshits. They're the ones that have Something to Prove.

On the other hand, maybe you HAVEN'T. If you're not Popular, they don't have any reason to prove anything to you. Dipshits have never been a very big part of my off-line life, especially since leaving school. The Dipshits I got were primarily of the horrifyingly geeky type, eager to prove that They Were Cool to me. I am one of the primary arbiters of cool. Or, at least, as close to an arbiter of cool as these people felt comfortable approaching, which is kind of like trying to keep warm using a cigarette lighter.

But I have seen other people get hit with the Dipshits. And I have, I admit, been a Dipshit on occasion. In my very distant past. Not for decades, now - in fact, I've been absolutely perfect since 2002.

I have mused on this Dipshit Effect on and off for a few years now. I never really thought of anything incredibly satisfying to explain it. The on-line autism post offered some insight into potentials, but I don't know enough about autists to tell whether they tend to suffer from being Dipshits. I don't think so - they probably have a high number of Total Pricks and Self-Absorbed Ass-hats (that's okay, I belong to both those clubs), but I think that Dipshitting is a uniquely social persuit, and autists aren't exactly king of the hill when it comes to social persuits.

But as you might remember, I had parents in city for over a week. I really haven't had my parents around in... well, a long time. It was... an experience.

I am accustomed to making one, particular, extremely strong impression: being very smart. Yes, it's true, some quirk of my physical self leads people to believe I am excessively capable at all things mental. So much so that the more plebian of them have called me "Bill Gates", the highest form of adoration that geeks can be given in today's mainstream society.

Psychics also think I'm psychic, but that's another story for a different time, and only to be read by people who are equally dismissive of psychics. :)

So, normally when I get the interacting thing going, I get this respectful response. People don't really dislike geeks, you see: they dislike the way many geeks don't fit into society. Many geeks are from another planet - one where you live with your parents and never talk to anyone about a topic more grounded in reality than "Star Trek". That is what people reject.

People respect intelligence, knowledge, and skill.

Lemme rephrase that:

People respect people they believe have intelligence, knowledge, and skill.

I know this, because over the past three or so years, almost everyone I've interacted with on an even slighly personal level has started treating me with a solid chunk of respect, and it's pretty clearly because of my brain.

You can argue that I'm a total egotist, and you may be right, but I've gotten used to this. To the extent where I don't do much socializing, because I know what the pointless short-term result will be. In turn, this appears to make the situation worse, because apparently people believe the axiom about smart guys shutting up.

Here's the thing: that isn't what happened with my parents around. As soon as they were around, I regressed seven years and immediately had Something to Prove. I haven't had Something to Prove to anyone else any time recently, save for an occasional fit of idiocy at Cape Cod.

The Theory crystalized this morning:

A Dipshit (at least, my variety of Dipshit) is trying to prove he's worth something. By howling and cursing and being a total ass, he gets people to pay attention to him, which is more respect than he usually gets going totally unnoticed.

The key I was missing is the sliding scale of Dipshittiness. How Dipshitty you are is calculated by this formula (maybe): RespectFor(target.inThisScope) * RespectFor(ThisScope) / RespectFor(me.inThisScope)

That is to say, how much respect you have for the target in this particular scope, divided by the respect you have for yourself in this scope, multiplied by the amount of respect you have for the scope.

So, I am generally not a Dipshit, because the world tends to afford me a solid chunk of respect, and a huge amount of respect in my chosen persuit. It's almost unheard of for me to encounter someone significantly higher up the scale than me, not because I'm an arrogant jerk, but because I don't tend to meet very many people high up in my chosen field.

Even when I do, I'm not much of a Dipshit because I have a solid chunk of respect for myself.

The problem comes when someone has a lot of respect for a field and gets no love from that field. For example, a fanboy. A fanboy gets no respect, because nobody gets much respect for being part of an audience. So as soon as he meets just about anyone with any kind of standing, he turns into a Dipshit and either blathers on to try and get attention (and lower transaction costs - it's complex) or dismissed him in an attempt to sound utterly cool to his friends. Someone in a group is more likely to play it cool or angry, because they're more likely to want to achieve (or keep) respect inside the group, muting the effect of the target, who is outside the group.

Until, of course, the target joins the group...

Well, I hope it's clear what I mean, even though I'm hitting quite a few tangents.

The same is true of players on-line. They have some level of respect for the game, but they get no respect FROM the game or other players. So they rage and grief specifically to garner some recognition.

I'm not at all sure that's true. I think it's true for the real-life examples, but the game-world examples... I'm not sure.


1 comment:

Craig Perko said...

Addendum: It's not how ANONYMOUS you are that matters... it's how much person-person interaction you get. I think.